Feb. 26 - U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry meets Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Berlin, with the almost two-year conflict in Syria expected to be at the top of the agenda. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION) STORY: U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met with the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Tuesday, as Kerry continued his round of talks with officials in Berlin as part of an 11-day "listening tour" of Europe and the Middle East. Russia will urge the United States to press the Syrian opposition to hold direct talks with Damascus, but fears "extremists" now have the upper hand among President Bashar al-Assad's opponents. Lavrov said before leaving for Berlin to meet Kerry that the new U.S. top diplomat seemed to grasp the gravity of the crisis in Syria. He said Washington should lean on the Syrian opposition to drop demands that Assad must leave power before talks can start. Moscow and Washington have been at loggerheads over Syria, where 70,000 people have been killed in a nearly two-year-old conflict that began with a crackdown on street protests against Assad's rule. Russia has been Assad's staunchest ally and, with China, blocked three U.N. Security Council resolutions aimed at mounting pressure on him to end the violence. Washington has sided with the Syrian opposition in seeking Assad's removal from power.